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Complaints Standards Authority update December 2014

Friday, December 19, 2014

Download the CSA December 2014 Update (PDF, 43KB)

NHS complaints handling
We continue to engage with key partners on the Scottish Health Council (SHC)’s report of their review of NHS complaints handling ‘Listening and Learning’ which reported in April 2014. The report made recommendations relevant to SPSO, about developing a standardised model complaints handling procedure in the NHS as well as training, good complaints culture and accessibility for complainants.We remain in discussions with the Scottish Government and SHC on our proposals to take forward the recommendation that the CSA lead on the development of a standardised process for the NHS, with a focus on increasing early resolution.We will engage with NHS partners over the coming months to progress work on this, including participating in a Scottish Government NHS stakeholder event on 30 January 2015 which will provide a briefing on ‘key national developments in encouraging and responding to feedback and complaints’. The event will also provide an opportunity to explore best practice, share progress and learn from experience across Scotland. It is aimed towards those with executive responsibility for feedback and complaints, clinical leads with a role in feedback and complaints and those with management responsibility for complaints systems and processes.

Local government
We have reported in each of our last five updates the requirement for all local authorities to submit their 2013/14 annual complaints report to us. While we have still not seen all reports, from those we have reviewed we are encouraged to see the vast majority of complaints being handled and resolved at the frontline stage of the
handling procedure (CHP). The information is providing valuable data that can be used to help finalise the sector’s benchmarking of complaints performance methodology, including the agreed approach of adopting ‘families’ of similar local authorities.

Once again we remind all local authorities that have not already done so to provide their 2013/14 annual complaints report to

Local authority complaints handlers’ network
The network met at the end of October 2014. The meeting focused on the next steps for benchmarking complaints information, including the pilot of benchmarking against the indicators and the agreed approach of adopting ‘families’ of similar local authorities. Members were also presented with key findings of a survey of the network, undertaken to obtain feedback from councils about the systems used across local government, processes for recording complaints, whether complaints handling was devolved to services or centralised, where complaints information was published and reported, and key areas of activity in terms of  training/guidance/reporting or other functions.

Details of the survey and its findings were shared through the knowledge hub. This was set up in March 2014 and is administered by North Lanarkshire Council, who provided an update on its use to date. 28 councils have now joined the hub and all other councils are encouraged to register with it, as it will be the main source
for all future information for members about the network. The complaints surgery (held at each network meeting) discussed complaints about political decisions, the handling of complaints for arms-length external organisations and school complaints. In respect of school complaints, Perth and Kinross Council reported that guidance they had produced to assist head teachers with this process would be shared with the network through the knowledge hub.We have been in correspondence with the Association of Directors of Education (ADES) to arrange further discussions around the operation of the model CHP in schools. Other issues covered at the meeting included the forthcoming publication of the SPSO unacceptable actions guidance, research into financial redress, a proposed cross-sectoral conference for public sector complaints handlers, and the Scottish Tribunals and Administrative Justice Advisory Committee and its role in developing excellence in administrative justice in Scotland.

Further network meetings have been arranged for January and March.

The Scottish Housing Regulator (SHR) have published information on all Registered Social Landlords’ (RSL) annual returns on the Scottish Social Housing Charter. This provides all of the data from each RSL on how they are performing against the outcomes of the charter as outlined in the SHR’s indicators, including in relation to complaints volumes. RSLs should also report on their complaints handling performance in line with SPSO model CHP requirements and self-assessment complaints indicators for the housing sector, developed in association with the Chartered Institute of Housing, the Scottish Housing Best Value Network (SHBVN) and HouseMark.

We are engaging with the SHR to assess how we can further support the sector in improving their complaints handling and benchmarking complaints handling performance.We have also liaised with key players in the sector to explore the potential for the housing complaints handlers network to reconvene early in the new year.We will update the Valuing Complaints web site and contact networkmembers whenmore information is available.

SHBVN are holding an event in January 2015 to outline some of their RSL members’ findings on performance trends from benchmarking. This covers all elements of the Social Housing Charter including complaints and feedback. SHBVN are a national social landlord benchmarking forum in Scotland, with over two thirds of all social landlords as members.We engaged with them in developing our guidance on performance indicators in 2013.

Further education
The ‘Guide to Implementation’ for the further education model complaints handling procedure (PDF, 99KB) explained that from 2013/14 colleges would be required to publish complaints handling performance information against a range of high level performance indicators related to the CHP. This is designed to help colleges assure themselves of how they are performing against the model CHP, to provide transparency and facilitate continuous improvement and benchmarking between colleges. Earlier this year, working with the further education complaints advisory group, we developed, and shared with the Quality Steering Group, further guidance on key performance indicators. The indicators provide the minimum requirement for a college to self-assess and report on performance, and to undertake benchmarking activities.

The Quality Steering Group met earlier this month and agreed that the complaints advisory group would host a benchmarking workshop in early 2015. To prepare for this workshop, colleges are asked to send their 2013/14 annual complaints performance report, which demonstrates their complaints performance against the performance indicators, to the SPSO at by 9 January 2015. Further information on the indicators and the requirements to report performance can be provided by emailing

Higher education
As with other sectors, we remind all universities of the requirement to report on their complaints handling performance annually in line with SPSO requirements, as documented in the ‘Guide to Implementation’ for the higher education model complaints handling procedure (PDF, 99KB). As with other sectors, we are asking all higher education institutions to provide us with a link to their published annual complaints report by sending this to

Our next open training course for staff handling second-stage complaints (Investigation Skills) is on Thursday 26 February 2015 in central Edinburgh. For more information and to book spaces, please contact

Updated: March 8, 2017